Economics
Chief economist update: Time to pig out on China shares?

The "Year of the Pig" is turning out to be what it signifies - prosperity, good fortune and success.

This is no truer than from the land the 12 animal signs of the lunar calendar zodiac originated - China.

This is against consensus expectations that China's GDP growth would continue to slide from the below target rate of 6.4% in 2018 to 6.2% (IMF forecast) - 6.3% (WB and UN) this year. Latest activity data supports these predictions, underscored by the continued downtrend in fixed asset investment, industrial production and retail sales.

Not to mention the lead from the Caixin China composite PMI which has declined to within a whisker of stall speed (50.9) in January from 52.2 in the previous month, dragged down by the manufacturing PMI that remained in contraction territory to 49.9 in February for a third month running.

This is a no-brainer for Trump's tariffs - and the global growth slowdown - has hampered China's manufacturing sector.

However, this could also be a blessing in disguise for it would only hasten Beijing's efforts at rebalancing its economy away from manufacturing and exports and into the more domestically-orientated services sector. Statista.com figures show that China's services sector has grown to 51.6% of GDP in 2017 from 41.9% 10-years earlier.

Based on Caixin's China services PMI readings - up to a strong expansionary level of 53.6 in January 2019 - it's safe to assume that the service sector's contribution to GDP has further increased in 2018 continues to do so.

That's good. Even better is Factset's latest report on the Trump-Xi trade talks:

"Bloomberg cited people familiar with discussions who said most or all US tariffs on China likely to be lifted as two sides close in on a trade deal. WSJ said talks have progressed to a stage where a formal agreement could be reached at a probable 27-Mar summit between Trump and Xi. China pledged to speed up timetable for removing foreign-ownership caps on car ventures, and reduce tariffs on auto imports."

But even better than better are latest reports that MSCI will raise the weighting of China A-shares in its indicempt s by raising the inclusion factor from the current 5% to to 10% in May, to 15% in August, and to 20% in November this year. This would lift China's weighting in the MSCI Emerging Market Index from around 0.7% today to 3.3%.

This would get money flowing into China's stockmarket. Indexed funds, exchange-traded funds and active funds, among others, benchmarked against the MSCI would need to buy Chinese shares in order to track their performance against the MSCI benchmark. UBS estimates that this would drive around US$67 billion worth of inflows into China's stock market this year - enough to buy Luxembourg and Greenland, plus change.

These would provide extra underpinning to the recent bull market in Chinese equities - Shanghai composite index up 20.1% this year to date; CSI 300 index up 24.6%; SSE-A share index up 20.1%.

Time to pig out?

Read more: UNUSMSCIGDPTrumpBeijingBloombergCaixin ChinaCSIExchange Traded FundsFactsetFebruary forGreenlandIMFLuxembourgMarket IndexShanghaiUBSWBWSJ
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